The Region

NW Street Closures Snarl Traffic for Hours

Traffic in parts of downtown Washington was gridlocked for more than four hours yesterday morning because of the unplanned closure of 18th Street NW for security reasons near meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Drivers entering the city on Roosevelt Memorial Bridge who normally turn left onto 18th NW to get downtown found themselves crawling along Constitution Avenue, from the bridge to alternate routes on 17th and 15th streets NW, District transportation officials said.

The traffic on 17th and 15th streets also was gridlocked between 6 and 10:30 a.m., they said.

District officials cited only security reasons for the 18th Street closure. Several other streets in the area were closed as planned.

Several streets in the vicinity of the World Bank and IMF will be closed again today and tomorrow (see map on Page B2).

VIRGINIA

Papers Ordered Unsealed in Slaying Probe

A federal appeals court ordered the Virginia State Police yesterday to unseal most of the documents in its investigation of the slaying for which former death row inmate Earl Washington Jr. was wrongly convicted.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that 10 documents in the investigation file should be opened because state police "failed to present a compelling governmental interest that is sufficient to keep these documents sealed."

The attorney general's office disagreed, though, and will ask the full appeals court to hear the case, spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

The dispute stems from a civil rights lawsuit that Washington filed to try to clear his name. Washington -- who spent nine years on death row -- has claimed that police coerced his confession and that prosecutors still think he could have committed the crime even though he was pardoned by Gov. James S. Gilmore III in 2000 after DNA evidence implicated another man.

Attorneys for several news organizations, including The Washington Post, joined Washington's attempts to open the files.

Maryland

Connector Within Air Pollution Limits

A study by the region's Transportation Planning Board has found that if Maryland builds the intercounty connector, the highway would not exceed federal air pollution limits. The planning board analyzed two proposed alignments for the long-debated highway and found neither would generate enough pollution to violate air standards.

The report is posted online at www.mwcog.org. The public is encouraged to file comments electronically through the Web site during a 30-day comment period, said Ron Kirby, chief transportation planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The Transportation Planning Board is scheduled to vote Nov. 17 on whether to include the highway project among the region's transportation projects.

The connector plan calls for construction of an 18-mile toll highway linking the business corridor along Interstate 270 with Interstate 95, the main north-south artery on the East Coast and a direct link to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the Port of Baltimore. The six-lane road, which state officials hope to begin building in 2006, would cost $1.7 billion before financing charges, according to estimates.

Schaefer Would Endorse Duncan in '06

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) said yesterday that he plans to support Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan in the Democratic primary should Duncan decide to run for governor in 2006.

Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) are considering running for governor, but neither has formally announced his candidacy. Schaefer, whose relations with O'Malley have been tense in recent years, called Duncan "smart as a whip" and a "very likable man" on WTOP radio.

But Schaefer, who has become estranged from several party leaders recently, would not say whether he would support Duncan in a general election campaign against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). And though Schaefer said he supports the reelection of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, he refused to commit to voting for the Democratic presidential nominee, John F. Kerry.

The 82-year-old former Baltimore mayor and governor also said he plans to seek a third term as comptroller in 2006.

Disaster Aid Sought for Five Counties

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) requested federal disaster relief assistance yesterday for residents of five counties that sustained significant damage from the remnants of Hurricanes Ivan and Frances. The aid, if granted, would help qualified disaster victims in Allegany, Cecil, Frederick, Harford and Washington counties receive loans and grants for damage to private property, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency said.

The District

Norton Chides Congressional Officials

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) admonished congressional officials yesterday for failing to reply to an Aug. 18 letter from Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) in which he proposed changes to Capitol Hill security measures implemented by Congress after a terror alert issued for financial centers.

Norton faulted House Sergeant-at-Arms Wilson B. Livingood, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance C. Gainer for not following up with talks.

"We are off to a poor start, however, when the mayor of the city does not even receive a promised response to a letter concerning security, safety, and traffic concerns," Norton wrote in a letter.

Congress Urged on D.C. Needle Exchange

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and the head of the Whitman-Walker Clinic asked House and Senate negotiators to allow the District to spend locally raised tax dollars on drug-needle exchange programs.

The request is included in the Senate's version of the District's pending $8.2 billion budget for 2005, but the House has blocked the measure in recent years.

A. Cornelius Baker, director of Whitman-Walker, noted that needle exchange programs are expanding throughout the country even as Congress continues to prevent the District from doing the same with local funds.

"It almost makes you sick just to think about it, knowing the murders [the snipers] committed."

-- Glenn Brewer, uncle of sniper victim James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, one of five people shot to death Oct. 3, 2002, reacting to news that murder charges against sniper John Allen Muhammad have been dismissed in Fairfax County. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Steven Ginsberg, Lyndsey Layton, Spencer S. Hsu and Tim Craig and the Associated Press.